Omega Replica enters the third dimension

Omega Replica Constellation chose Baselworld to present the Globemaster, the first watch to meet the new Master Chronometer standard. Fitted with Co-Axial Calibre 8900, it withstands exposure to a magnetic field of 15,000 gauss and is precise to between 0 and +5 seconds a day.

Slowly but surely, Omega spins its web. The Co-Axial escapement, invented by George Daniels but developed for industrial production by Swatch Group for Omega, marked the first step in its ascent. In 2007, after nine years of development, the Co-Axial escapement, billed as being more energy efficient than its Swiss lever counterpart, was incorporated into Calibre 8500, Omega’s first exclusive movement, with the subsequent addition of a silicon balance spring. Calibre 8508, presented in 2013, was a new milestone. Key components are made from non-ferrous materials, prompting its claim to be the first genuinely antimagnetic movement.

Until then, the only effective barrier to magnetic fields had been to protect the movement inside an inner soft iron case which acts like a Faraday cage. A number of watchmakers, concerned with proposing reliable timepieces, introduced this type of device into their ranges as of the 1950s. Rolex was one, with its Oyster Perpetual Milgauss from 1956, followed two years later by Jaeger-LeCoultre and its Geophysic, and IWC‘s Ingenieur. Omega was already in the running with its Railmaster, released in 1957 and able to resist a magnetic field of 900 gauss.

Tougher than the COSC

As far as Omega was concerned, this was just a beginning. While the rest of the horological world appeared to have sidelined problems of magnetism in watches, even as we introduce more and more objects into our lives that give off a magnetic field, in December last year Omega’s executives revealed what the brand had been up to. They announced a new certificate developed with METAS, the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology. Its criteria exceed those imposed by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) whose approval is most widely sought by Swiss watchmakers. All that remained was to put a face to this new standard, which is precisely what Omega did in Baselworld. Globemaster is a brand-new line whose watches are the first to have successfully negotiated METAS testing and emerge with the words “Co-Axial Master Chronometer” on their dial. Fitted with Co-Axial Calibre 8900, they withstand 15,000 gauss and are precise to between 0 and +5 seconds a day. Better than the -4 to +6 seconds required by the COSC.

Just to hammer the point home, Omega Replica De Ville has promised that by 2020 all its lines will be Master Chronometer certified, except the Speedmaster Moonwatch as this would mean re-testing for NASA flight-qualification. “We have the technology at our fingertips; we have the machines and the qualified staff to make them work, yet this is still a sizeable challenge,” declared Omega Chief Executive Stephen Urquhart at Baselworld. “Especially as these developments will have no impact on the price of our watches.”

All for one or one for all?

Would it be fair to label the new Master Chronometer certificate a clever publicity stunt? Stephen Urquhart leaps to its defence: “Don’t imagine for one second that all this is simply part of a well-orchestrated marketing campaign. Magnetic fields are a genuine problem in watchmaking. I’m afraid I don’t have official figures to back this up but our own estimates, based mainly on information from our after-sales services, show that many of the problems encountered, in particular movements that run fast, are caused by components that have become magnetised. We now have an adequate solution that will certainly lead to far fewer watches arriving for repair.” And why not less frequent servicing for these watches, given their improved reliability, plus a longer, ten-year warranty…

Omega has certainly set the bar high. A magnetic field of 15,000 gauss corresponds to levels generated in the immediate vicinity of a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. In the current state of play, a watch qualifies as antimagnetic if it withstands 75 gauss. Standards are currently being reviewed, but the gap remains considerable. It wouldn’t be a great leap to suggest that this new certification is made-to-measure for Omega. Comprising eight criteria, beginning with prerequisite COSC certification, Master Chronometer measures the functioning and precision of the watch head and the finished watch, and of the fully and partially wound movement during exposure to 15,000 gauss, in addition to tests involving power reserve, water resistance and average daily precision in six positions replicating wearing conditions. “Master Chronometer certification is open to everyone, even if we are first to benefit,” says Stephen Urquhart. “The future will tell whether we took the right step!”

Replica Omega Hour Vision aims to gain competitive edge from Master Chronometer certification, which it is backing with the Globemaster’s extremely competitive price positioning. Design-wise, this new watch takes its cue from a 1952 Constellation with pie-pan dial. “We didn’t want there to be any room for confusion, hence the new collection,” Stephen Urquhart concludes. “This isn’t a vintage watch but rather a contemporary classic.” One which, according to the Omega boss, the brand’s partners have already adopted.